Featuring Josh Brolin (Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Megan Fox (Mikala Barnes in Transformers, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), Michael Fassbender (Magneto in the X-Men film series reboot), and Lance Reddick (Agent Philip Broyles in Fringe), Jonah Hex is a western style comic book antihero adapted to this film of the same name. A surly and cynical bounty hunter that has a horrible scare on the right side of his face, but despite his poor reputation and personality, Hex is bound by a personal code of honor to protect and avenge the innocent.It’s actually a pretty poorly made film that isn’t worth much time.
According to the IGN review:
Based on the DC Comics gunslinger, Jonah Hex follows the eponymous scar-faced bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) as he is enlisted by President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) and Lt. Grass (Will Arnett) to track down the terrorist Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), a former Confederate officer hellbent on destroying the U.S. government. Hex is already out for revenge against Turnbull for slaying his wife and child and leaving his face grotesquely disfigured. Now he can kick his ass for America, too!
Jonah Hex could have made for a hell of a movie if done well, but instead it turned out to be one hell of a mess. Its notorious reshoots aside, the film’s clearly had a tomahawk taken to it in the cutting room resulting in a movie that, at a mere 81 minutes, is the epitome of barebones. This is a movie that apparently lacked a uniform vision from its inception of what it should be tonally. It’s part spaghetti western, part supernatural tale, part action film, part black comedy and doesn’t quite work as any of them.
Brolin brings a gruff charm as Hex, but as a movie character Hex is just like every other taciturn, cliche gunslinger anti-hero from countless spaghetti westerns save for his very cool makeup job. The actor never quite gets a bead on the role, but his innate coolness goes a long way in making you not walk out. Just don’t expect to make out every line of dialogue he grumbles out through that facial prosthetic he’s wearing.
Hex is obviously the character the film rightfully spends the most time with, but it relegates everyone else in it to being pretty much a thumbnail sketch. Indeed, Megan Fox (as Jonah’s prostitute love interest Lilah) could have been cut out of the film entirely and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference as you never once believe Hex cares much about Lilah. Theirs is an uncomplicated relationship: he pays for sex with her while still brooding over the loss of his wife and child. (Hey, a man’s got his needs.) Trying to make Lilah into a true love interest he needs to save just doesn’t ring true here. Malkovich underplays Turnbull to the point of hardly registering any impact at all, while Michael Fassbender as his sinister henchman Burke deserves to be added to my list of Most Ridiculous Irish Villains. He’s the Bullseye of this movie.
Blink and you might miss some of the other actors who pop up here and there, such as Oscar nominee Michael Shannon or former Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat. Ditto Ghost Rider baddie Wes Bentley as an aristocratic Confederate sympathizer. Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes this his third DC Comics screen adaptation in an unbilled but decent cameo. Arnett plays it straight here, but there’s ultimately no reason why he’s in this movie; it’s not like his character becomes either a help or a hindrance to Hex. Lance Reddick does what he can with his couple of scenes as a gunsmith ally of Hex’s and largely makes it out of the movie with his dignity intact. But it’s not like you really give a damn about anyone in the movie or what will happen next.
The choppy story – by the Crank team of Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor – recycles the same basic plot of The Legend of the Lone Ranger and Wild Wild West where a nutty former Confederate seeks to avenge himself on the U.S. government. All three films have President Grant in a supporting role played by a notable character actor. And like Wild Wild West, the villain here uses an anachronistic super-weapon, a gimmick that’s since been done to death in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Sherlock Holmes. (Can Hollywood please retire this unsubtle and overused War on Terror metaphor now? We get it already.)
Jonah’s supernatural power is one of the few things that make this movie different, even if its simply used as a narrative cheat for him to learn information. Unfortunately, the “one foot on earth, the other in hell” aspect of Jonah’s story is just as half-baked as every other part of the movie. There are cutaways at one pivotal point to an otherworldly brawl between Hex and Turnbull that’s simply unnecessary and confusing as it is juxtaposed with a “real world” battle that we’re also supposed to be engaged in. You end up caring about neither struggle.
This may also be the loudest Western ever made. The deafening, over-the-top heavy metal score – which plays from the opening production company logos to the end credits – makes the film sound more like a Saw sequel than a Western. It’s just trying too hard to be cool and to appeal to younger viewers. On the other hand, the movie boasts fine cinematography and nice attention to period detail in its production design and costumes. Too bad they’re wasted on such an ADD storyline. While Jonah Hex has its moments, it’s ultimately yet another disappointing comic book adaptation. It’s a film born out of its time, belonging among the comic book movie dregs of the late ’90s rather than in the genre’s current renaissance.